Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Always Wanted to Be in the Circus!

The Peru Amateur Circus that is! Yes, that's another little known Tim fact. You see, I spent about five years of my young childhood in Peru, Indiana. They were great years spent in a great town. Thankfully, I have relatives that still live in Indiana, close to Peru, and whenever we are there we still visit Peru and some of the sites.

Peru has a great history. Peru is now called "Circus City USA". The story that I remember being told as to how Peru got it's nickname goes as follows.  Peru is a railroad town, and way back in the early 1900's many of the great traveling circuses would have their winter headquarters their. I can still remember seeing some of the old elephant barns where they used to house the great behemoths during the cold months. Because they traveled from town to town most of the year, the winter months in Peru were usually the longest that the circus performers ever spent in one place. Consequently, many of the circus performers retired in Peru. In 1960, some of the retired circus performers came up with the idea of starting an amateur circus in Peru and training the youth in the area in some of the different circus acts.

It has been continuous to this day and has turned into quite a production. These are not willy-nilly circus acts, they are big time circus acts that are only performed by school aged children form elementary school up through high-school. The only adults that actually perform are the clowns that come to entertain the audience out while the riggers are getting the three rings ready for the next act. Of course the trainers, riggers and spotters are adults as well, but the actual performers are all kids. Nowdays, if you are in the circus for so many years while in highschool, you can earn college scholarships. It is no suprise that they do. When you audition and are chosen for an act you are put through a rigerous training and practice schedule that runs from March through the actual circus in mid July.

A good friend of mine was in many acts over the years and later helped with rigging. My own cousin actually road a motorcycle across a highwire. That's not all, however. The motorcycle had a trapeze attached to it that hung below the highwire that a girl performed tricks on. The motorcycle was somehow attached to highwire because at one point in the act, they would flip and my cousin would actually be upside down on the motorcycle under the highwire while the girl on the trapeze was above the highwire. There was no net, but my cousin did have a safety harness. Still there was danger. At one point during one show the safety harness broke while he was upside down. He was able to hold on and they were able to upright the motorcycle before they immediately ended the act for the night.

Anyway, I loved going to the circus and dreamed of someday being in it. My plan was to start off as one of the Tiny Titans that performed on the side by side trapeze. There is a video of a recent performance of the Tiny Titans below. Unfortunately we moved to Pennsylvania before I was ever able to join the circus and fulfill my dream. Maybe someday. In the meantime, I will continue to support and promote the Peru Amateur  Circus and all that they do with the youth of Miami County, Indiana where Peru is located. Enjoy the videos below. I think you will see that although the circus may be called an "amateur" circus, there is nothing amateur about the professional quality performers.

The Tiny Titans

The High Wire Act

The Flying Trapeze

The Teeterboard Act Making a Special Appearance at a Shrine Circus

Monday, June 17, 2013

Joshua Loves Learning Geography from Memoria Press - A TOS Review Crew Review

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Last night I sat down to work on this review but got a bit sidetracked. As I was thinking of these materials and how much Joshua likes them, I began thinking of our journey with Joshua that has led us to the place where we are now. If you would like to read about that journey just go back to the previous before this one on my blog. It will tell you a lot about why Joshua absolutely loves and excels at learning about other countries. I'll give you the short version as to why we were so thrilled to receive Geography I - The Middle East, North Africa and Europe from Memoria Press

Joshua is our middle child who was blessed with Asperger's Syndrome which is on the autism spectrum. One of the traits of some asperger's kids is that they latch on to certain subjects or things and become "little professors" and learn all that they can learn about that thing. Joshua has gone through Thomas the Train when he was younger to bowling, football, helicopters, WWE Wrestling (I hang my head in shame at that one Smiley). Most recently it has been geography. Thankfully this phase has lasted for a few years now and has really developed and expanded. So, now you know the short version of why we are so excited to now own the Memoria Press fourth grade Geography I course. 

I say fourth grade, but the Geography I description on the website actually says fourth grade plus. Let me explain why I think that description of "fourth grade plus" is really spot on. We have been blessed to review and to personally buy a lot of Memoria Press materials over the years and have really enjoyed using them. Memoria Press, however, is a very advanced curriculum. Unless you have a child that is used to the Memoria Press curriculum, is advanced in their own right, or has a particular interest in a subject, you may have to adjust the curriculum a bit. Although Joshua fit into one of those categories because he has a great interest in geography, because of his aspergers syndrome and small motor problems we did adjust how we used it a bit and, as I write this review, I will tell you how. 

When you receive the Geography I course from Memoria Press you actually receive a whole packet of materials. If you used the third grade materials from Memoria Press then you studied the states and capitals of the United States. The Geography I packet contains a "States & Capitals Review" Student Workbook and Teacher Key, Quizzes, & Tests book to be used once a week during the year while your student studies The Middle East, North Africa, and Europe. It is a great review that has the United States divided into eight sections. You review one section a week for eight weeks then start all over again. Each time they change it up and review the states and capitals in just a slightly different way. Unfortunately, although we have studied states and capitals some with Joshua, we haven't studied them enough for him to really be able to use this portion of the Geography I set. I am looking forward to supplementing using these more next year as supplementary material for a more formal study of the states and capitals.

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The United States review was a great bonus, but the Geography I - The Middle East, North Africa and Europe was what we were really anxious to sink our teeth into. We received three books, the Student Text, the Student Workbook, and the Teacher Guide, to aid us in this study that is intended to be done about three times a week. Memoria Press has this region of the world divided into eight sections for study purposes - Middle East, North Africa, Mediterranean Europe, Central Europe, The British Isles and the Low Countries, Scandinavia, Eastern Europe: Part I and Eastern Europe: Part II. Let me describe each book separately and how we used it.

The Student Text - One thing that we have been very blessed with in our children is their ability to read higher level things. Joshua's problem is not his reading ability, it is his hyper activity and attention span. He can't sit still long enough to read long chapters in books, his reading material needs to be in short spurts. That is what I really liked about the Geography I Student Text. Each country description is one page long with a map of the country on the opposite page. The text for each country includes sections titled "History's Headlines" that gives a brief history of the country, and "Tour of Today" that talks about what is going on in the country now. It also contains a chart, "Fast Facts" that gives the capital, other major cities, languages, population, religion, etc. about the country, along with some black and white pictures of or about the country and the flag of the country. Although the pictures in the book are black and white, the Memoria Press website has a link where you can view all of the pictures from the Student Text in color. Joshua found the text very interesting and loved it. Although he didn't have any problem reading it but it does seem to be written at a little higher level than what most fourth grade students are accustomed to. The "Teaching Guidelines" did say, though, that the text could either be read by the student or the teacher could read it aloud in class. 

The Student Workbook - Here is where Joshua had a little bit of a problem. However, it was not with the workbook itself. The workbook is very simple. Each country has only one page to fill out. It includes the country name, capital, ancient name, and a section called "Fun Facts" where the student fills in two or three fun facts that were either given to him by the teacher, or found by the student himself in the text. The bottom part of the page is a map that is to be filled in using the terms from a word bank. As I mentioned, the workbook is very easy to fill out and is not complicated at all. The problem is that Joshua has very poor writing skills because of his small motor problems. It is very difficult for him to write let alone label and color a map. So, for this section I just asked him the questions and we discussed the text and other things - basically doing it together. Since we only had about eight weeks to review this material, next year, we are going to delve into it all more and I am going to have him fill in the student workbook more doing a little each day. I think he could handle that.

The Teacher Guide - Is basically the same as the Student Workbook with the answers filled in, but also includes quizzes and tests to be given throughout the study.

We really, really, enjoyed this material and, as mentioned above, we plan on continuing to use this next year. That is the real "mark" of whether we really like something or not - are we planning on continuing to use something. With Geography I - The Middle East, North Africa and Europe from Memoria Press that is a resounding "YES!".

Another "mark" as to whether or not we like curriculum is the price. Can you believe that all of the material listed above costs only $48 if bought together?! The materials can also be purchased separately. The separate items range from $5 - $14.95 in price. You can find all of this by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. Happy world hopping!

Many other TOS Review Crew members reviewed this and other items from Memoria Press and you can find what they had to say by clicking on the banner below.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Strike While the Iron is Hot!

If you follow me on facebook then you have seen my posts about our journey with Joshua, our 12 year old with asperger's syndrome. Asperger's syndrome is on the autism spectrum. Kids with asperger's are fascinating. Some folks call them "little professors". Oh, yes, they have their social challenges, but they can also be highly intelligent in some areas. Children with asperger's often will fixate on certain things. It's like a light goes off in their head and they go through a stage where they have to know everything about a certain topic. It could be a sport, a movie, a T.V. show, or school just never know what it might be, when it will start, or how long it will last. 

When Joshua was younger, it was Thomas the Train. He had to watch every show. He knew every character in the series. He collected the different trains and the different play sets. He read every book or we read it to him. He knew, and still does know, everything about Thomas the Train.

Later he moved on to helicopters. It was amazing! He could literally tell you everything that you wanted to know about almost any helicopter you could think of. Since heightened senses are also something that an asperger's child has, that brought a whole new dimension to his knowledge. He could (and still can) hear a helicopter coming before any of us could. He could then tell you almost exactly what kind of helicopter it was by the sound.

Other topics that have caught his interest are bowling, football, and, most recently, WWE wrestling. Yes, as in professional wrestling! Let me tell you the story.

I think that you all know that Sarah and I are directors of a ministry called "Good News Mission" to the low income housing area and really all of the low income folks in the town where we live. There is a little old lady that comes up to the mission by the name of "Miss Glenda". Miss Glenda is the Grandma of the projects located right across the street from where we live. She is always helping someone out. She even gets up at four o'clock in the morning and walks through the projects picking up cans and sweeping the sidewalks! She is an amazing lady. 

She is also a lady who loves watching professional wrestling. She would come up to the mission and try to talk to the boys about wrestling, but, since my boys were never permitted to watch it, they really couldn't hold a conversation with her. Well, we decided to allow them to watch it so that they could talk with Miss Glenda and, sure enough, after a while, it became one of those things that caught Joshua's interest and he had to learn everything he could about it. 

One year he received a huge, thick, wrestling encyclopedia from Sarah's mom for Christmas. He devoured that thing. I mean he took that with him everywhere he went and read it over and over again...and it truly was thick! It actually fell apart and we had to buy him the new updated one. 

One day we were on the way to therapy when Joshua asked if we could play the flag game. He said he would describe a flag and I needed to guess what kind of flag it was. Well, since I had no idea that he knew what any flags looked like, my curiosity was piqued and I agreed to play. The first couple of flags were pretty common flags like the United States flag of Canada. Then, however, he began to describe flags that weren't as common but still recognizable like the flag of Japan. I was amazed, because I had no idea he knew all of these flags. Finally, he described a flag that was blue with a shield on it and a "little British flag" up in the corner. Well, now I was truly shocked. First of all I didn't even know he knew what the British flag looked like let alone a blue flag with a shield and a little British flag in the corner! I guessed a couple of countries that are related to Britain but was wrong every time. Finally I gave up and, in an exasperated tone, Joshua said "Dad, it's the flag of Fiji!". I countered "Joshua, how in the world do you know what the flag of Fiji looks like?" To which he answered "Oh, well that's where Jimmy Snuka, the professional wrestler is from."

It seems that beside the description of all of the WWE wrestlers in his encyclopedia, was the flag of the country in which they were born. He knew all of the flags from studying them in that big thick book!

Well, I decided to "strike while the iron is hot" and study everything we could about geography and other countries since that's where his interest was at the time. That was a decision that I am glad that I made. That incident happened a few years ago, and we have bought him geography book after geography book and he has really taken to them. 

A couple of weeks ago we were playing a geography game online. The further you got, the harder the questions were. One level was all flags, and, of course, he got everyone of them correct almost without fail. I wasn't surprised at that. What I was surprised at was when they played small audio clips of languages and you had to choose what language it was from a list of four languages and he got almost all of them correct as well! Even the complicated languages like Russian. He didn't even look at the choices, he just listened to the clip and told me what it was. He didn't know all of the words, mind you, but he knew enough of them or could tell by the accent of the speaker. 

Once again, we are "striking while the iron is hot". He announced to us that he wanted to learn a lot of languages but the first ones he wanted to learn were Spanish, French and Russian. So, our young fifth grader is now learning Russian from a set of books that a missionary friend of ours that served in the Ukraine gave to him.

I could tell you other fascinating stories about his love for countries and languages but will save those for another day. Could we, however, have found Joshua's calling? Time will tell. Until then, we are praying that God will continue to guide us in Joshua's and all of our boy's learning so that they can be all that He wants them to be.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bible Science Experiments and Daily Dilemmas - A Review of Two Great Devotional/Object Lesson Books for Kids!

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Little known Tim fact #umpteen thousand - I have been involved in the camping ministry for almost all of my life. I began as a camper when I was younger then I became a counselor, head counselor and eventually a program director. Way back when I was a counselor I would always look for things that would help me with devotions and other special times with my campers. Even today I am constantly searching for materials that I can use with kids in the Bible clubs and day camps that I direct. Bible Science Experiments and Daily Dilemmas, two products from Christianity Cove, have been a fantastic hit in my ministry.

As you can see from their tag line above, Christianity Cove's main goal is to "Lead kids to God's love" and I found that the two products that we reviewed did just that. Many of the reviewers from the TOS Review Crew used them with their children, but I chose to use them with my Bible Club kids and they really enjoyed them. Let me talk about each product separately.

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The picture above is talking about Bible Science Experiments and it is spot on. I really wish I would have had this fantastic ebook when I was a counselor at camp, but am sure glad that I have it now to use at my Bible clubs and other ministries. Don't get me or the banner above wrong, though. These scientifically based experiments that have have Biblical applications will be equally enjoyed by both boys and girls. It's going to be used a lot this summer at our day camps for the kids that live in the low income housing area  in our town. 

There are 25 experiments in this ebook divided into five sections - light, color, motion, magnetism and gravity. Each experiment/object lesson starts off with a scripture. I really like that because it gets you focused on God right away instead of getting bogged down with the details of the experiment. It then gives a list of all of the materials - usually all simple materials that can be found around the house. For example, the very first experiment uses a drinking straw, glass and tap water. The materials are that easy to find. The object lesson then goes on to explain the very easy steps. You do not have to be a science expert to perform these neat experiments. After each experiment you ask a question or two (What happened to the water in the straw?), answer the question and explain what happened, and then go right in to a short devotional. 

In this case, you put a straw down in to a glass of water, put your thumb over the top, and pull the straw out of the water. The water seems to defy gravity, stay in the straw and not fall out. I won't get into the the scientific explanation. You'll have to buy the ebook if you want to learn that. The Biblical example, though, is that God does not always follow the laws of nature. He made nature and can do anything He wants, like part the red sea, or walk on water. There is a lot more than that, I'm just giving you the basics. As I said before, you'll have to buy Bible Science Experiments to get the rest of the story! 

I am in the process now of thinking about what experiments might go well with the stories that I am going to teach at day camp this summer. I really think that the kindergarten through sixth graders would love these and that the object lessons will really compliment my stories. I may even allow my junior high and high school aged helpers to do them. I think they could learn a few things from them as well. Bible Science Experiments is a keeper!

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Another keeper is Daily Dilemmas. The banner above describes this book well. There are 26 sticky situations that deal with almost any situation that a child in today's world has to face. Gossip, revenge, bullying, peer pressure, persecution, cheating and more. Kids have to face so much more than when I was a kid or even when I first started counseling at camps 30 years ago. I really like these short devotionals geared for older elementary school aged kids or even middle school kids. To be honest, I really think that high school aged youth could really learn a thing or two from these lessons and perhaps even lower elementary children if it were broken down and explained.

Each devotional starts out with a short scenario. It is then followed up with scriptures that the child that is having problems in the scenario might use to help him or her make a decision about what to do. Then, there are four possible solutions to the problem that you are to read through and discuss with your children. In one scenario Owen is having problems with a kid from his baseball team bullying him. Owen has gotten so angry that he has even thought of getting even and revenge. What should he do? Of course, the story in the book is much more detailed than that, but that is a simple example of the types of devotionals in the book. After you read the story and the scripture verses to your children, and then decide which possible solution would be the best, you turn to the back of the book where each solution is discussed and the best choice is revealed. You can then discuss it further with your group.

I have used Daily Dilemmas a lot with my Bible club kids and we have had some really lively discussions. And let me tell you, the possible solutions can often be tricky. There are sometimes two or three that could possibly be the best solution. The author does a good job in the back of the book "Reflections" section in explaining each possible solution and why the one best solution really is the best solution. This book is another keeper and will be used a lot in my ministry!

I love these two products, and I also love the price. Daily Dilemmas is just $29 for the downloadable ebook, and Bible Science Experiments can be purchased for $25 for the ebook download. You can find them both by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. Happy devoting!

There were many products from Christianity Cove that the TOS Review Crew reviewed and wrote about. You can find all of those reviews by clicking on the banner below.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Want to Learn How to Make a Webpage? This Review of "Let's Make a Webpage" is for you!

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My oldest son John Allen has been interested in computer programming for a long time. He has been through a couple of computer game programming courses and has created a couple of neat computer games. His dream is to one day create Christian computer games that can be downloaded for free from his own website. He hopes that he can get a lot of advertising for his site and therefore be able to make a living. However, although he has learned the basics in how to create a computer game, the only course that he has ever had in creating a website was a few years ago and he has forgotten most of it. That's why we were so excited to be able to review Let's Make a Webpage, an ebook by Motherboard Books.

Although the Motherboard Books website says that  Let's Make a Webpage is for ages 8 and up, and John Allen has much more experience than a typical eight year old when it comes to computer programming, I thought this would be a great opportunity for him to brush up on his webpage building skills. There are so many sites, now, that use basic templates to help you "build" a webpage and the creativity that you have is often limited. This curriculum, however, teaches you how to build a website basically from scratch. It does require a simple download of "CoffeeCup Visual Site Designer". "CoffeeCup Visual Site Designer" is a program that writes HTML code as you design your webpage. I think that you'll see that it is all very simple.

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When thinking about what to say about Let's Make a Webpage, I had two thoughts - it's thorough but easy. So, Thorough and Easy are going to be my main themes for this review.

It's THOROUGH - Okay, I'm going to admit that I didn't do much with this curriculum myself. I'm not the computer "Geek", my son John Allen is, so he did most of the work and I'll let him comment a little later in the review. I did, however, look over the ebook and try to glance at what he was doing periodically. And My Goodness! What I saw when I looked over the ebook was that it was very thorough. The author, Phyllis Wheeler, leads you step by step into every aspect of your webpage. And I mean every aspect. I've copied and pasted the table of content below so that you could see what every chapter entailed.

As you can see, she includes every type of bell and whistle you could think of to put on your page. However, in order to keep her ebook easy to follow, she had to guide the programmer in a particular direction. Instead of allowing the reader to think of any imaginable kind of webpage to develop - which could be infinite - she suggests interviewing someone and then developing your webpage around the interview. Now, when I said thorough, I meant thorough. She even takes you step by step in doing and writing the interview. As you can see below she then goes into every detail of designing the webpage. Since I teach Bible to kids, one biblical phrase came to mind when I was thinking about this ebook and the way Phyllis Wheeler wrote it - everything is done "decently and in order". It is all step by step and logically written. Nothing is out of place or confusing. It is very thorough.

Table of Contents: Introduction for Parents 
Lesson 1: An Interview
Lesson 2: Download and Set Up the Program 
Lesson 3: Add Text
Lesson 4: Make a Table
Lesson 5: Add Photo
Lesson 6: From the Internet, Add Animations
Lesson 7: Browser Check, Backgrounds, Photos 
Lesson 8: Sound 
Lesson 9: Links 
Lesson 10: Post Your Work 
Appendix: How to Upload to the Internet 

Now, lest you think that something this detailed and thorough must be difficult to understand, let me rest your mind at ease that although it is thorough, it is also very EASY. Phyllis Wheeler makes it very easy. She has such a way to her writing that it is almost like she is right there talking with you. I love it! There is no complicated computer language in this ebook. It is all just easy and flowing. And she is also very encouraging. At one point after asking the student programmer to experiment she says "Now that looks cool!  Do you want to stick with that?". I mean, how neat and encouraging is that? It's like she's having a conversation right with you!

A little known Tim fact is that I worked with learning disabled kids for eleven years. I loved working with them, and I loved learning about better ways to teach them. I think that this book would be an excellent introduction to programming a webpage not just because of the reasons that I listed above, but also because it, as much as an ebook can, uses different learning styles to teach you how to design your webpage. I am a very visual learning. I like to see what something is supposed to look like. I love the fact that the author uses a lot of graphics in Let's Make a Webpage. For almost everything that she asks you to do, she has a graphic for what it should look like. I really like that, and that fact alone makes me want to try to make a webpage myself. I would have never thought that my middle child with aspergers syndrome could do something like this, but I really think that with the encouraging and flowing dialogue and graphics, that he could actually learn how to create a webpage.

Which brings me to what John Allen had to say about Let's Make a Webpage. He really liked it, but as an almost seventeen year old that has had some programming experience, he said that he thought it was too easy. Now, in my finite computer brain, nothing can be too easy, but to someone who knows his way around   computer programming a little bit, this might not be a challenge. However, in this day and age with so many hi-tech and computerized things, learning how to work on a computer and design things is almost a must. The earlier you can begin to teach a child the better. Even if you don't expect to go in to a computer field, but want to go into something like marketing or business, you need to know how to develop a webpage. This curriculum is perfect for a young child or for a person that is not very computer literate. I really liked this ebook and I'm going to look into some of the other products that are offered by Motherboard Books.

So, how much is Let's Make a Webpage? I know from experience that some computer courses, even those written for younger children, can cost up to $100 and more. This ebook, believe it or not, only costs  $19.95! You can find out more about it by clicking here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. Happy Programming!

Motherboard Books has quite a few products to choose from and The Schoolhouse Review Crew got to review two of them. You can find what some of the other members of the crew had to say by clicking on the banner below.


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